Full Minds and Clear Thoughts
 

As we prepare for the New Year, Neil Anderson, Head of School at Trinity Classical in Houston, TX, shares the importance of resolving to remain students so that we can be better teachers.

Early on in my public speaking life, I had the dreadful experience of standing in front of a room of people with nothing to say. I had relied on my cursory knowledge of the content and the assumption that I could fill in any necessary gaps on a whim. On this particular occasion, the plan failed, and I vowed to avoid that humiliation at all costs in the future. This has not resulted in my becoming the prototype for preparation, but I do have a firm conviction that one who asks for the attention of others in a speaking/teaching context should be worthy of that attention. Usually this demands adequate preparation.

The first of the Seven Laws of Teaching, according to John Milton Gregory, states: a teacher must be one who knows the lesson or truth or art to be taught. This law is stated more specifically as a rule: know thoroughly and familiarly the lesson you wish to teach — teach from a full mind and a clear understanding.

At our winter faculty inservice, we talked about full minds and clarity in understanding. The rule is simple and obvious. Why would we teach what we don’t know? How can we teach what we don’t know? We all know it happens often in classrooms, pulpits, athletics, etc. We wing it. “Winging it” is occasionally linked to lack of time for prep and busy lives, but most often it is a product of laziness, an illness that few escape.

We often teach what we don’t know because we are lazy and didn’t carve out time for the first law of the teacher. On the opposite end of the spectrum, thoroughly knowing the content we wish to teach is no easy task. The calling of the teacher and faithfulness to this rule requires much of us, typically more than we are able to give. On any given day at our school, teachers at the grade levels we currently have need to apply this rule to several different disciplines each day. The content of each school day could warrant a ludicrous amount of preparation in order to truly become equipped with a full mind and clarity of understanding.

I bring this rule to light because it is equally applicable to our co-teachers, our parents. Just because we know how to do long division does not mean we are ready to teach it. Just because we read Macbeth in high school does not mean we are ready to take our students through it on a whim. This is a good topic for this season of resolving. Teachers and co-teachers alike: resolve not to teach what you don’t know. Resolve to teach from a full mind and a clear understanding at all times. Resolve to be a student first, then a teacher. Perfection in this task requires more than we have to give. But the chasm between perfection and slothfulness is great. Find a healthy place for yourself somewhere in between.

Amongst a host of things you could be doing in order to be faithful to the first law, the simple and practical commitment is to read ahead. You may not be able to accomplish it with every discipline, for every child, every day. You can start by tackling one subject per child. For example, if you have three children in grades 1st, 4th, and 7th, put the Story of the World 1, Saxon 6/5, and Arabian Nights on your nightstand and read ahead. If that’s all you can do, do that. Read ahead, think about the content you’re going to teach or discuss, and experience the reward of teaching with clarity.

I will be writing on more of the Seven Laws of Teaching in future posts. I recommend the book to you if you’ve not read it. The most important aspect of this first law is to remember the privilege of being a teacher. Preparation for the teacher is not drudgery, it is joy. Teaching is the desire to share what we are excited to know.

*reposted with permission. Original post can be found here.

 
Neil Anderson
The Pain of Pruning and Joy of Growth
 

About 6 years ago, one of my closest friends bought a house that had some huge rose bushes in the back yard. These plants were an impressive 4-5 feet tall and 4-5 ft wide. They even had a few bright, beautiful flowers here and there…but overall they were scraggly. They had very few leaves and very few flowers because they hadn’t been thinned, pruned, deadheaded, or fertilized for a long time. The previous owner had either ignored them, or become completely overwhelmed by them.

I convinced my friend that they could use a pruning, and she trustingly said that since I was the horticulturist, she’d let me do whatever I thought best. So we picked a day for her to watch our gaggle of children and for me to work on her roses.

Since I love pruning, I got into the scraggly mess and got to work with gusto - taking out the dead and diseased wood, cutting back the long leggy stems, and thinning out the middles to allow sunlight and wind to reach all parts of the bush. Next thing I knew, I had a mountain of thorny branches on the grass and very small - really stumps - of rose bushes remaining. I started to panic. What had I just done to my friend’s roses?! Did I really know what I was doing? Would they ever recover? I took them from their 4x5 foot mass of 100s of stems to stumps of about 1 foot tall with only 5-10 stems. I said a quick prayer that I hadn’t completely destroyed her roses. And then, while my stomach was churning, I started cleaning up the branches. I got scratched while pruning, but double scratched while picking up. It was miserable work.

My friend said we’d just wait and see. Trusting in horticulture's wisdom more than myself. So, we waited, added some fertilizer and mulch, and waited…for about 4 weeks. Those weeks seemed so long as I waited to see if I had killed her roses. But then we saw the first few leaf buds starting to swell and unfurl. And then another month or so saw new, strong, green stems start to grow. No roses yet, but stout stems and healthy leaves. Then finally about 4 months after the massive pruning project, the first buds started to show. The flowers that those roses produced that summer were amazing! Those bushes were a pink blaze of glory. All of that pain, hard work, and worry had found an end. A beautiful end.

I’ve been thinking that those roses are much like our family’s VCS journey so far. We had been hobbling along homeschooling for several years, doing okay on our own and even making a few roses here and there. But there were so many things we didn’t know how to handle, got overwhelmed by, or were playing it safe in - not wanting to go deep and prune out our bad habits. My bad habit of simply pushing aside assignments I didn’t want to or know how to teach, or our children’s habit of whining and not staying focused, or my habit of never sticking to self imposed deadlines. But we knew that if we wanted to see strong, vigorous, beautiful growth, that we would need some help and pruning - even painful pruning.

And boy, did it feel  like we got hacked down to 1/4 of our size in an intense and crazy way over the first quarter! There were so many tears on my part and the parts of our children. There have been many times I’ve cried out to our Father that this is too much. That I am too tired. That I want to be done. I want to go back to the safe and easier place. I want to be left to just bloom a few flowers here and there.

But now we have started to see our children begin to grow and change. We’re starting to see more and more how their campus teachers are loving them and walking with them and helping us train them. We are starting to see glimpses of the fruit that we have been praying and hoping for. We are starting to see the leaf buds swell as those 1 or 2 phonograms get a little easier, another row of math facts gets mastered, and one more subject is moved over into cursive, but most importantly - we’re seeing our children start to taste what hard work produces and like it. They’re little things, but we are starting to taste what is coming.

There is still work and many more pruning times ahead. But to see God’s grace towards us in giving us an intense time of pruning and to be able to see some fruit - that is a true gift. So, rally on VCS families! And remind me of the same. May God bless the adventure we are on together and give us courage to keep inching forward--to see our children and ourselves grow and flourish.

 
Jody Strom
The Shadow of Delight
 

The other day, during Bible, we were reading Psalm 91, and discussing verse 1. It’s easy to understand some metaphors of God-- His protection over us, our resting under his wings. But I was struggling to explain what “abiding under the shadow of the Almighty” meant to 8 year olds. I asked my students, “What makes a shadow?” I described the feeling of standing next to a tall person when the sun shines on them, and you are within their shadow. But for some reason, it didn’t seem to resonate with them as much as the other descriptions in the Psalm. Why is it a comfort to abide inside a shadow? My students have been struggling with understanding this, as well as something else. I thought about these as I drove home that day, and had no idea that God would weave these two things together.

The students in my class love order, structure, consistency, and rightness. They are very much aware of, and regularly point out, the mistakes that I make (so fun for my pride!), and those of others. They all have a strong desire to uphold classroom order, to meet expectations, put simply: they want to be right. They hate making mistakes. They become flustered and upset and frustrated when they answer questions incorrectly, or get problems wrong on homework, or blunder a line -- even one word--  in poetry recitation. No matter how often I try to tell them that failure and mistakes are ok, my words fall void. Inevitable mistakes continue, and frustrations rise again. This repetitive struggle is so hard for me as their teacher to watch! My heart has grown so tender towards them, that when I watch them internally beat themselves up, it beats on my heart, too.

So I think of how to approach this all the time- on my drives home from school, on my drives to school, as I set up my classroom, as I cook dinner. Throughout the year, as I have wrestled and prayed and ached and tried to faithfully pursue this process of helping my students, God gifted me with two unmistakable moments through which He spoke. He tied everything together.

The first was a regular campus day morning. The teachers and board members were gathering for our daily morning prayer, and Kyle Strom simply prayed that each student would “learn to sit peacefully under authority.” Tears sprang into my eyes right at that moment as the weight of the reality hit: I am the authority they sit under. What an incredible, significant, huge and humbling position! I thought about this as we headed into morning assembly, and it echoed what we had talked about in our teacher training this summer: we as teachers image the Father before these kids. Through our example in front of them, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they will glean more of what God is truly like. When Kyle prayed this, it reminded me how sacred it is to be the authority in the room because I get to show them what the Father thinks about them!

The second moment happened after this prayer, I was listening to a podcast and I was struck again in the same place. The speaker described her journey towards understanding what God is like, and believing what he thinks of us. She described how powerfully transformative it is to live rooted in God’s delight. The moment that struck me most was when she described a dream in which God asked:  “Is my smile enough?” That was it. Everything I have been thinking and saying and doing to try to help my students stop being frustrated with themselves started to come into focus! Zephaniah 3:17 says, “He will take great delight in you.” The Father delights in us, continually approves of us, and he SMILES over us. So if I am rooted in God’s delight of me, I can stand in authority over my students and show them my delight in them!

These two moments came full circle back to Psalm 91:  The Father’s delight is the margin within which we live, and dwell, and abide. It is the place where we fail, where we make mistakes, where we forget the answers after raising our hands, but where we can never be loved less. If we root ourselves in God’s delight, we can never be moved from that safe shadow.

I ask again, what makes a shadow? What happens when you stand next to someone taller and greater than you? Does the sun beat down on them instead of you? If they stand there forever between you and the wrath of the sun. What happens to you? You can freely fail. You can safely abide. The shadow of the Almighty is the safest place in the world, where we stand rooted in his delight, forever under his smile.

By: Kate Orton, Third grade teacher at VCS

 
Kate Orton
To What End?
 

My 13 year old daughter stormed down the stairs with tears in her eyes, “Why are you speaking to my brothers that way?” She implored, “Don’t you hear yourself?”

She was responding to my harsh tone and critical words directed at our nine year old over playing the cello out of tune.

My first introduction to “homeschooling” came through a music program that required extensive, daily, parental involvement with the student at home. This provided one on one time each day, with three of our children individually, and this time did have the potential to be a sweet time of giggles, fun music games, and slow, steady progress.

Instead, in our home, this one-on-one practice time tended to be saturated in critical words, an unkind tone of voice, impatience, and pressure to achieve. It is true that with the approach I chose a child may learn quite a bit, but after years of this pattern my daughter’s exhortation caused me to ask myself, “To what end am I pushing these children?”

The sobering answer to this question for me involved valuing achievement over honoring the Lord with my words and keeping a loving tone with my children. At the moment I chose a harsh tone and critical words, I chose achievement over loving them in a manner that reflected the love of Jesus. After a period of reflection and prayer, it was evident that I had yet to yield to the loving arms and acceptance of Jesus and was still trying to prove my worth through things like the achievement of my children.

It has been months since my daughter stormed down the stairs. The change in my heart was not at all instant, and the ease with which I reverted to my “tone” at first was miserable. In time, however, the Lord has gently persisted in helping me bathe in His acceptance, and the one-on-one time has been noticeably better, with more giggles, more praise, and, funny, the musical progress is better.

On a practical level, recurring pitfalls in our home include trying to teach when pressed for time, hungry, sleep-deprived, and failing to allow for our, or our children’s, bad days. Sometimes it will not be perfect, but it will help the child more, in the end, to simply move to the the next thing or stop altogether.

To the astonishment of my children, I painted the phrase “to what end?” on the wall that I face during the one-on-one music time together. This year as VCS parents I pray that we would not be surprised by our sin and beat ourselves up but simply ask forgiveness and move on. I pray that the Lord would grant us wisdom to be neither too harsh nor too rosey and accepting of mediocrity from our children, that we would teach our children “to the end” of glorifying God, not ourselves, and not to the glory of the opinion of others. I pray also that the Lord would do whatever is needed in our hearts to get us “to this end.” Finally, I pray that we would look to Jesus with persistence through his word and through prayer.

 
Rani Rosborough
Teaching Phonograms (SWR!)
 

At first look I was a bit intimidated by the “Spell to Write and Read” curriculum used by Valley Classical School. There is a red book, a black book, a bunch of cards with letters and slashes and other such interesting things…

After digging in and using the “How to Introduce Phonograms” link from the VCS Preparing for Fall Guide I am feeling much more confident and I hope to pass this confidence on to you.

This summer, children entering 1st through 4th grades at VCS will need to work to memorize “phonograms,” (listed on the above referenced “card things” with slashes and letters…). Phonograms are awesome and exciting tools for becoming a strong speller. Spelling is a fundamental building block to reading and writing well.

Here are some hints that may help:

  1. Pull apart the white and tan cards, separate and order. The phonograms you will need for this summer are on the white cards

  2. Before you dive headlong into reading the red and black books included in the curriculum read the “How to Introduce Phonograms” link from the VCS Preparing for Fall Guide (which actually does have you read pages 31-32 in the red book regardless). This will provide a concise overview of phonograms and how to jump right into to teaching them to your children.  Of course if you want to start with a comprehensive reading of the texts provided by the curriculum, by all means do! I found the “How to Introduce Phonograms” a very helpful preamble to the texts themselves.

  3. Read through the “How to Introduce Phonograms” link entirely and then start with the “Complete these exercises with your student” section. These are fun and important.

  4. If your children are like my children, take a break, eat a snack and then move onto the “Fourth, Introduce Phonogram Cards” section on the bottom of page 3.

  5. There is a proposed daily and weekly schedule for memorizing the phonograms. Keep in mind:

    1. 1st graders only have to memorize the first 26 white cards

    2. Do not expect them to memorize them cold right away...repetition will aid with memory over time

Feel free to touch base with any questions!

academics@valleyclassicalschool.org

 

 
Rani Rosborough
How is Valley Classical School Different from Classical Conversations™?
 

It is very exciting, albeit a bit confusing, to have both Classical Conversations and Valley Classical School in the New River Valley! Though these educational offerings are both “classical,” they are also both distinct (click here for VCS's approach to classical education). In brief, Classical Conversations is a homeschool group where the parent is the teacher. In contrast, Valley Classical School is, as its name implies, a school where two days a week the bulk of teaching is performed by the school teachers with parents as the support or “co-teacher” at home.

This chart attempts to summarize the differences between VCS and Classical Conversations (CC):

CC Foundations (up to 6th grade) CC Challenge (> 6th) Valley Classical School
One half day a week (full day with Essentials*) One full day a week Two full days a week
Parent chooses and teaches own curriculum at home (Foundations focuses on supplemental memory work, plus science and art projects). Essentials supplements English grammar, writing, and math curriculum Pre-Selected Curriculum taught by parents (Material reviewed/discussed with tutor during weekly class) Pre-Selected Curriculum taught in school by teachers with parents as “co-teachers”
Parents required to be present Parents have the option of being present Parents invited to join morning assembly only (in addition to special events)
No grades given No grades given (parents grade and record transcripts) Grades given, transcripts created
Parents responsible to show progress to state Parents responsible to show progress to state School administers standardized tests to meet state requirement
Parent as teacher Parent as teacher Parent as “co-teacher” (teaching diminishes progressively in grades 7-12)
Classical Conversations “Tutor” (must be a Classical Conversations parent) Classical Conversations “Tutor” (must be a Classical Conversations parent) Teachers, one per grade for Pre K through 4 and Subject or Master teachers Junior High and High School
*Classical Conversations's Essentials program is an optional supplement to Foundations.

More on Classical Conversations™

Classical Conversations offers its “Foundations” program for students up to about 6th grade and its “Challenge” program for older students. In addition, its “Essentials” program provides supplemental English grammar, math, and writing instruction to students in 4th through 6th grade. In the elementary school years, Classical Conversations does not provide a comprehensive homeschool curriculum. Instead, the weekly meetings, led by parent “tutors,” focus on a rigorous set of memory facts that include math, science, English grammar, Latin, and history. In addition, students complete a weekly art project and a hands-on science project. 

Briefly, the term “tutor” is used in Classical Conversations in part to be clear that the parent is the teacher. The structure of Classical Conversations is that all “tutors” must be parents with children currently enrolled in the program. In all levels of Classical Conversations the “tutor” is not expected to teach, rather they are to review material. As the parents are required to be present in the Foundations program, Classical Conversations meeting days provide an opportunity to fellowship with other homeschooling parents, exchange ideas, and support one another. 

Where Foundations is designed as a supplement to a curriculum that is selected and taught at home independently from the Classical Conversations material, Challenge offers a comprehensive curriculum. Parents remain responsible for all teaching and grading at home, and students prepare for a weekly class with their “tutor” and peers to dialogue about the week’s work. 

Valley Classical School Compared

Valley Classical School is a significantly different offering from Classical Conversations. Valley Classical is a formal school, but limits itself to two days a week in order to honor and support time with family at home as well as provide flexibility with extracurricular pursuits or individual educational needs.

Where the elementary school years of Classical Conversations focuses on supplemental memory work, Valley Classical teaches a full curriculum in math, science, history, language arts (which includes spelling, grammar, composition, poetry, and reading), and Latin. The arts and music are woven into the curriculum, as is physical education. In Kindergarten through 4th grade, home assignments are given for two days each week (that is, two days in school, two days of home assignments) and the fifth weekday is a flex or free day. In 5th through 12th grades, home assignments are given for all three non-campus days each week in keeping with the depth of the material as the children mature. Assignments given for home days are turned into the teachers on the next school day and graded.

The home assignments are posted through an online interface the Friday prior to each week.  They walk the parent step-by-step through the material to be completed at home. In the elementary school years, the parent will not be responsible for teaching new material in science and Latin on the home days but will be introducing new material in English grammar and mathematics.  As the student grows older, specifically in Junior High and High School years, the “co-teacher” role of the parent diminishes and the bulk of the teaching occurs at school though subject or “master teachers.” This occurs with the understanding that the material becomes more specialized and difficult during the Junior High and High School years. 

Valley Classical School conducts parent “co-teacher” training in late summer to ensure that parents feel equipped to manage home days.
 

 
Rani Rosborough
Poetry
 

When I first saw the booklist for Trinity Classical School in Houston, I had to look twice - $65 for the poetry curriculum? Are you kidding me? Do we really need poetry that badly? 

To me, poetry was at best boring and at worst a bad memory. I always tried to find poetry interesting, since that was the “educated” view to have, but I could never get into it. Though I loved Anne of Green Gables, I always thought she was a little silly to love poetry so much. I remember trying to craft a few soulful poems in middle and high school, only to come face to face with my pathetic lack of creative writing skills. Poetry was also at the root of possibly the worst homework assignment I ever had - an analysis of “The Destruction of Sennacherib” by Lord Byron in 9th grade. It was pure torture. Just say what you mean and who cares if it is in whatever meter.

So, to have to spend $65 on a curriculum for a subject that I saw little to value in...that was hard.

When the school year started and our son’s Kindergarten class started with:

Ooey Gooey - Author Unknown

Ooey Gooey was a worm,
A mighty worm was he.
He stepped upon the railroad tracks,
The train he did not see!
Ooooey Goooey!

Our family thought that was pretty clever, and it was fun to say! Who could draw out “Ooooooeeeeyyyy Gooooooeeeeyyyy!” in the most dramatic tone? Who could master the surprised tone the best? And really, is there anything cuter than a 5 year old reciting poetry?!

All of a sudden, poetry became a fun family activity. We all learned our son’s Kindergarten poems, and we all learned our daughter’s second grade poems as a family. We’d laugh about them together. We’d say them in funny voices. We did have to enact a rule that whichever child was learning said poem, could veto their siblings saying that poem...it’s amazing what kids can argue about.

And now, over two and a half years into this curriculum, I can see the full value of it, and it is probably our collective favorite 5-10 minutes of our school day. Our children have learned words that they likely wouldn’t have been exposed to at this age, like “crag” and “lyric” and “penance”, and they enjoyed learning those words in the context of a fun, intriguing, or beautiful poem. They have learned how to appreciate a joke more fully through all of the goofy poems we’ve learned. They have learned to be conscious of how different words and word patterns mimic sounds in nature, and they have learned to be more fully aware of the beauty and majesty in God’s creation through the creative descriptions in the poems they are learning. 

They have also learned to be brave in approaching a new poem, work through its difficulties, and then taste the joy of mastering something well. In 2nd grade, they learn Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’, which has crazy words in it like “frumious” and “whiffling” and “vorpal”. It’s intimidating as a parent to teach it, but oh so fun to be able to say in the end, and to be able to say that you know it! In 3rd grade, there is a poem that is 44 lines long. And, each of those 44 lines are extra long lines! There is some serious sense of accomplishment at mastering that poem! 

It’s also interesting to watch our daughter, who is now in 4th grade, start to analyze the poems with a mind that is entering the logic stage of learning. She is no longer simply memorizing and enjoying the poems, she is starting to interact with them. She’s starting to ask “Why does it say ‘Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.’?” when learning “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, which then prompts a spontaneous history lesson. Or, she’s starting to notice similarities in meter between poems. And, she isn’t scared of them simply because they are poems. 

There is also a fun family tradition element to this “expensive” poetry curriculum, since it is a comprehensive K-12th program. Now that our son is in 2nd grade, there is a common bond between him and his older sister as they share memories of memorizing the same poems as they come along. When our twins enter Kindergarten next year, we’ll get to add yet another layer to that sibling bond of shared knowledge and vocabulary.

 
Jody Strom
Tuition
 

Please know I write this with a bit of trepidation, as well as with great sensitivity because let’s face it… financial issues are tough to discuss.  We thought a post explaining the reasoning behind VCS’s tuition range would be helpful, especially since this is an issue that could be the topic of an entire information meeting, not just another item in a list of other logistics.  This will be followed soon by a few blog posts that either address some questions we’ve received, or other pieces of school plans or culture that we want to highlight.

First of all, VCS’s budget and use of its money will always be transparent.  The board is truly seeking to stay above reproach in this area – both to keep ourselves accountable, and to instill confidence in the VCS families.  We recognize that anything beyond a free public education requires an investment, sacrifice, and hard financial choices for each family.  This means that other areas of life may take a cut in order to pay for your child’s tuition, and we don’t take that lightly.  We are honored you would consider trusting VCS with that investment, and we never want families to doubt where their tuition money has gone.

We also recognize that in the collaborative model, families must have a parent home two days a week (or make other arrangements such as a tutor).  This translates to being comprised of many one-income families (though not necessarily all families would fit that description!).  We get it.  We are right there with you.  Even as I write this, I am thinking through ways to help generate a little more income to put toward our family’s tuition at VCS, and also praying for God to provide in unexpected ways so that we can in turn provide this education for our children.  So we, alongside you, are “putting our money where our mouth is” – making sacrifices in other areas in order to ensure we can make this work for our families (worth noting here that board members’ children will not receive a discount of any sort). We really believe it is worth the investment.  If you feel this model is right for your family, will you please join us in seeking Him for provision, before writing it off as out of the budget?

You meet two days a week - why aren’t you 40% of local private schools?

We announced a range we are considering at the interest meeting, but are still weighing that decision heavily, which is why I won't include it in print here. We took a good look at tuition at surrounding schools, as well as at other collaborative model schools such as Trinity in Houston and Covenant School in Greensboro.  Below I will outline a few of those tuitions.  I have left names off simply because I have not asked these schools’ permission, but please know these are actual numbers from schools in our area:

  • Full 5-day Private School 1: $4500/year
  • Full 5-day Private School 2: $4990/year
  • Full 5-day Private School 3: $5500/year
  • Full 5-day Private School 4: $6210/year
  • “Popular Local Preschool:” 6 hours/week: $1440, 9 hours/week: $1935, 12 hours/week: $2430, 15 hours/week: $2925
  • Trinity Classical School – Houston: $3700/year
  • The Covenant School – Greensboro: $3600/year

While we realize that VCS will meet on campus about 40% of the time per week that full-day private schools do, we cannot emphasize enough that this is not a part time school.  VCS will provide all of the curriculum, support, grading, accountability, community, and reporting – just like a full time school would.  We simply get the joy and flexibility of having our children home three days of the week as we take on more of a facilitator role at home. As founders, that is invaluable to us, and more than likely you are reading this because you are intrigued by the blended approach. With that in mind, we ask that you truly consider it a full week of school when weighing the costs against other private schools in the area.  I will also mention that many families don’t think twice about paying $3,000/year for 15 hours a week at preschool.  That is a valuable, wonderful experience for young children, but we would argue that the rich and full experience provided by a classical, collaborative school is worth at least a comparable price tag to that.  Please note that at this point, we are considering a yearly tuition below our two mentor schools, in hopes that more families in our area are able to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

So what’s tuition going toward?

Our number one priority is to pay teachers well – a school is only as good as its teachers, and in order to attract the best, especially since we do not have full-time positions, we want to pay them what they are worth.  While teachers will only teach in the classroom two days a week, they are expected to be available for parent questions on the home days, as well as organize lessons prior to the school week so that parents can get on the same page.  That is a lot to ask!  We plan to hold our teachers to a high standard, but also want them to feel valued, because they are our number one asset.

The second portion of money will go toward rent/custodial fees at our building.  Choosing a building has many variables including space available and student safety.  Since we have not finalized a location yet (though we do have several viable, available options), we don’t yet know how much rent will be, which will obviously play a large role in our monthly budget.

The third portion of money will go toward insurance (based on enrollment and number of teachers) and “other” expenses such as association fees, technology, conference attendance for teachers, etc.  We would also love to begin saving toward hiring a head of school in the next few years, as well as establishing a fund for financial assistance.

Speaking of - what about financial assistance or discounts?

In a perfect world no family would be turned away because of finances.  We are striving to establish a need-based tuition assistance fund, and are praying God will provide donors and/or other means to that end. We are also considering other types of discounts, though we continue to pray about the level of discount that might be offered.

While this was long, I do hope it helped to explain more of our reasoning and heart behind the VCS tuition. To summarize, anything worthwhile is going to require an investment and sacrifice, and we urge you to pray for God’s provision for the school, as well as for your individual family if He’s calling you to VCS.

 
Meredith White
The Journey
 

Welcome to our blog!  This first entry is taken from the first email I sent out to a few friends, explaining my family’s journey to reach the point of this leap of faith to actually try to start this school, as well as the vision for it.  

My husband Danny and I have three small children, ages 5, nearly 3, and nearly 1.  A year or so ago, we began to hear the slow din of "Kindergarten is Coming." As a product of private Christian schooling K-12, and as a public school teacher for nearly 5 years, I've seen those two approaches to full-time classroom education.  Both private and public schools have their strengths, and I would never judge or question anyone's schooling decision for their children. I wholeheartedly believe God can and does call different families (and even different children within the same family) to different schooling options.  So again, please read this as our family's journey, and perhaps one that you resonate with too.  And if it doesn’t resonate – that’s OK too!

I decided to keep our oldest daughter, Addie, home for preschool this year in order to try our hand at homeschooling, because I so value what it offers to family unity as a whole. The year has gone amazingly well so far, yet I can see how our social butterfly would really love/benefit from time in a "real" classroom next year. The day she turned 5, she got dressed and said, “OK! So do I leave for Kindergarten today?” Ha! However, when we really considered her being gone 5 days a week for 7 hours a day, that didn’t feel like a good fit for our family.  Even at the age of 5, Addie recognizes that she doesn't want to miss out on that much home life, and I recognize that we all would miss her terribly, she would miss out on a lot of her younger siblings' lives, and we would all get the worst of each other at the end of each day, rather than our best.  

It doesn't take much searching to find there is a lot of research that says we are a culture who overschedules, overcommits and over-pushes our kids far too early in life (if you’d like some resources to this end, please contact me!).  I love the idea of kids just getting to be kids - learning, yes, and receiving a high quality education, YES, but also with lots of time and margins to play, explore, and imagine.  With all of these thoughts swirling I wasn't 100% thrilled with any of the educational options available.

About 18 months ago, I learned about a collaborative school being started in Greensboro by a friend of a friend (http://thecovenantschool.org).  "Collaborative" meaning a blend of traditional and home schooling: Two days of Classical-approach education on campus in a classroom with a paid teacher, and two days at home where parents continued teaching the same material sent home by the classroom teacher.  EUREKA!  I thought.  This is it!!  Then reality hit, because of course, nothing like that exists in our little town.
Having mulled over all this for about a year, I "randomly" met another mom in town, Jody, who had many of the same thoughts, and had actually moved here from Houston where her kids attended a collaborative classical school (http://www.tcshouston.org), which they loved.  All fall, Jody and I (along with the patient support from Kyle and Danny) dreamed out loud, and even traveled to Greensboro to see the school in action and meet the founding families.  

Around the new year, through a friend, we met our third “core family,” the Rosboroughs, who had also (providentially!) been dreaming of this very idea and were enthusiastically ready to jump in to continue the effort.  Since then it has been full-steam ahead as God has given this team of three families who didn't previously know each other unified vision, energy, and varied personal gifts to work together toward this common goal.  It has been wildly exhilarating and encouraging to be a part of this so far!  We are also seeking counsel from a variety of individuals familiar with both collaborative and Classical educational approaches, as well as from TCS Houston and TCS Greensboro. 

There are still many details to be figured out, and we hope that families who are interested are willing to embrace a bit of the ambiguity as we blaze a new trail, establishing a school the first of its kind in this area.  The amount of work is terrifying and exciting but the core families believe in this enough to give it our all unless the door is firmly closed.  I truly believe that if the Lord is building this "house," (Psalm 27:1) ALL of the details will be provided in His timing.  Regardless, we feel great about putting forth the effort exploring something as valuable as our children's education. 
 

 
Meredith White